Posted by: Peadar Ban | April 25, 2019

Our Lady

How long ago, and how old must I have been when I first heard about Our Lady. But it must have been when I was very young. This is a memory, one among the first: both my Grandmothers with their rosary in hand every day, and their lips moving ever so slightly as they prayed. Why do I love her more and more?

There isn’t much more to say other than, “Because!” It’s a kid’s answer to a lot of big questions, “Because!” But, it has long seemed to me the best one there is. You can weave a story later that comes after your “Because!” Often when I asked the typical kid’s question, “Why?”, the only answer I got was, “Because!” Again and again. And then, sometimes years went by, before the rest, the information contained in “because” like it was some kind of DNA, became very clear.

In school one of the first prayers we learned was the Hail Mary, the nuns telling us that she was our mother, too; the Mother of the Whole World, and the Queen of Heaven and Earth. But, still, she was, somehow, my own mother in heaven. These were the things we “believed”; knowledge on a higher level, of a different kind, than everyday facts and figures. And, we did believe it; still do.

Everywhere we went, when I was a little one, there was some reminder of Mary; in homes, in conversations, and around the necks of boys and girls, men and women, and most assuredly in Churches, at Mass, in her many songs of joy always tinged with sadness, in the statues, the paintings the beautiful windows.

We would not go swimming in the very polluted waters of the Harlem River in New York City near home, even my few non-Catholic friends, without something of Mary’s protection around our waste or neck, a rosary or medal of some kind. We had no doubt she would protect us. That I am writing this now, more than a half-century after those hazardous days it seems to me is proof enough that she was interested in her “spiritual” children’s physical health and well being as well as their spiritual health and liveliness.

Things changed as I grew older, and Mother Mary became less a part of my life. I have no doubt now, though, that she had not forgotten me, though I may have wandered far from her. Too many subtle indications of her care and concern, and of her ready ear for pleas to help in one thing or another make me ever more aware of her loving interest.

This is, perhaps, a description of a long journey back to her warm lap, to her company and care; certainly after its first beginnings some years before. Long ago, visiting relatives with Sheila, mother of my children may she rest in peace, we were at Mass in a church in another town. It was a Marian Feast Day, and a Holy Day of Obligation, one of those days when Catholics go to Mass that isn’t the Sabbath. Such a bother one might think. The celebrant and pastor addressed us in a sermon that must have begun, not in his brain, nor in his soul, but in a very upset and angry stomach. I thought it, really, not in good taste. The good man complained that the present day was yet another one on the Catholic calendar devoted to Mary. His complaint was, I remember, that she had more feasts, a simple woman, and mother, during the year’s turn than her Son, the Redeemer of the world. I wanted to defend her, but then thought of my own neglect down the years.

The thought came then, and lives now that without that young woman’s simple yes… Well…

Calm returned after being told the pastor was a convert, allowances are called for, and one must never punch a priest in the nose. Poor guy, I have since thought with a smile, he probably went swimming in some ghastly place with no special protection when he was a kid.

Let me back up. The long curve round to Mary began earlier than that and continued into and through college. A Freshman course opened my eyes to the wide world of Catholic culture, often referred to as Western Culture. But, really, we know just whose culture it is. Well, one of the first things this course brought to eyes and mind was beauty in places I hadn’t ever thought about, and hadn’t ever dreamed could be as rich and, well, beautiful; music and art. You see, it was the 1960’s and art was, well, you know for a street urchin, a term my mother used from time to time. We avoided, more or less, art and left it to be where it should be, in museums and stuff which were filled with strange things and stranger people guys like me would rather stay away from. You might catch something there.

Nevertheless, we were required to go into such places and expose ourselves to “Art”, and to take what may happen like the men we already thought we were. Surprise was the first thing.

Who knew?

After my first trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a few lectures back in the classroom about what I had been asked to pay attention to I found myself one day in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, home base so to speak for Catholicism in my home town. Having been there several times as a young child with my parents, the church building was familiar. Now, it was different. Then I had no “big” ideas about culture and art, or what they meant, or why they were. Things were just there and were what they were. I might stand in the middle or before the altar and look up, or all around at the place, and even like it. But, understanding was beyond me, or better not even thought of by me. Can a small child tell itself or anyone else it’s meaning, purpose or usefulness. Christ, of course, and He did over three days once. I probably cannot do that even now; but I have my own ideas.

So, on that day, St. Patrick’s “told” me something about itself, about me and about the rest of the world. I was surprised again, and enchanted, overwhelmed and, strange thing, thankful. It was a little embarrassing.

Back to Sheila, now, the woman who chose me. We were wed in St. Patrick’s. She was a student of the Cathedral High School which gave all graduates the privilege of being married there. Ours was a small wedding, in the Lady Chapel behind the main altar, in front of a beautiful rendering of Our Lady (Notre Dame). Being married there was something Sheila had dreamed of since, well, perhaps forever.

That memory of mine joined the others of St. Patrick’s in my heart and mind, and, as memories often do, befriended the knowledge I had gained of those things from school, the ones about art, and reverence, beauty and that strange word, Dulia, in my mind and heart.

We have a tradition in Catholicism, a tradition we call “making a visit”. It may be a dead one these days. But, when the doors of Catholic churches were kept open always not so long ago, they were never empty. We regularly visited to talk to God, and to His saints, especially His Holy Mother. Visiting praying to, and paying one’s respect to the saints even had it’s own word, Dulia; an old Latin thing, perhaps. There’s a special Latin word reserved for such a thing done to God, Latria. You can look it up.

There has long been a desire within me to drop in, sort of on Mary in those other places one may go to “make a visit”. I recall one in Poland years ago, in Częstochowa the great center in that country of her devotion. It was there that I encountered her during a pilgrimage and among thousands of others on her Feast Day, the Black Virgin painted so it goes by St. Luke almost the same as the other Polish one, at Montserrat, each time, becoming more connected with the “person” behind the image. Same person. Different place.

There was nothing more than a desire to fulfill a decades old wish that led me to Notre Dame when I finally went to Paris about two years ago, and to walk inside the place which had occupied my passing thoughts for years. So, the day came. But, I had already been there in my imagination so frequently that upon entering the church there was a moment of “let down” rather than a thrill of “finally”.

It did not last long, certainly not as long as the wait outside to get inside. But, I was, nevertheless, there. And, I waited, I suppose, to hear a voice calling my name, or see someone approaching me; my Mother. That soon left me as Mariellen and I wandered around inside an ancient beauty.

In the subdued quiet of the place I felt very much at home. I have always had a sense of welcome and peace in every Catholic Church I have ever entered, small or large, around the world. But, here, was something different for me. After a few minutes, I felt at home. Really at home! Maybe it is the name.

Now, it is gone. I actually wept when I learned of the fire, Wept and prayed, prayed and wept.

Oh, I am happy that so much has been saved. And, I pray that it will sometime be restored to the way it was in every respect. But, though I can remember almost every step in the all too short time we were there, and that is a consolation. I do not think I will every see it again..

That is what makes that morning so annoyingly poignant for me. You see, I had been thinking about the visit to Our Lady, going over it almost step by step, and taking pleasure in thinking, too, about the next one….


Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 20, 2019

The Brightness of Eternity

It is Monday morning, about 7:30.  I woke up to the sound of Eric’s snow-blower making slow progress down his drive, him behind it, to the plow row of snow at the end; four feet high, four feet thick.  Maybe I should have said plow plateau.  I went back to bed where Mariellen told me she was now awake.  We lay there listening to the growl of the plow. (It occurs to me to write plow growl, but I am no Welshman, nor Irish Jesuit.)  She said, “It’s not helpful to drifting off again, but it is better than the strangled chicken sound from the alarm clock.”  I agreed.  We both hate the new alarm clock.

We talked about Andrea’s brother.  He and his family lost their house in a fire after the ice storm last week.  He is emotionally wrung out from that and from being the beneficiary of so much compassion and generosity from neighbors and friends.  One expects that from one’s family, I suppose, and may hope for some aid from “official sources”, but spontaneous and generous kindnesses  can be unsettling.  The poor fellow is whipsawed between sadness over the loss, gratefulness for the kindness and, I suppose, embarrassment at his, for want of a better word, sudden confrontation with his weakness, his existential dependence.  It’s positively biblical.  I want to tell the fellow to go and read some of the Psalms, or study up on Kind David (I like the typo.  I’ll keep it.)  Or, perhaps, some Isaiah would help him to understand the suddenness of disaster, and God’s mercy in it, the necessity of suffering; even for Christ.

I would tell him and tell myself in the telling to remember the words when, and there will come that day, it strikes me.  Oh, it already has, I remember, and I was given the gift of realizing.  Now may I remember.

The phone is ringing, now.  It’s a call from P. H.  She calls here three or four times a day, poor soul, to tell us that she wants to be included on the list for people who will receive food baskets for Christmas.  This year there are 76 families.  That’s up ten since Thanksgiving.  Today is the day we will give them out, or deliver them to those who have no means of getting to the church to pick them up.  Mariellen is the person responsible for pulling it all together. She’s been working about twenty hours a week at home on the lists and such-like, calling petitioners and lining people up to help with the distribution.  I’ll be there.  I want to make a pot of coffee and some hot apple cider for the people as they wait; show them some hospitality, some friendliness.  They are all, after all, Christ, and need to be welcomed; and we need as well to welcome them, even the ones who call, and call, and call.

P. H., I would say, is so used to her dependence that she considers a charitable response her due, and is upset when none is forthcoming; or when none appears to be.  Of course, there is also the worry chronic need brings and its heavy twin, desperation.  These are constant burdens of the spirit. She is, in her own, way, an agent of mercy.  A difficult grace is the term of art used by the folks I know in the Families of Nazareth.  She, too, is Christ.

I did not answer the phone.  She has been taken care of, and no amount of telling her that will keep her from insisting on being taken care of.  Sometimes, like a colicky child, there is little one can do with the need except to bear it.  Everyone.

Matty and Liam, two Curran boys from up the block, are outside now working on shoveling about a zillion cubic yards of snow from our driveway.  We “hired” them for the season.  Today’s job is made easier by the fact that Eric, God bless him, came across the street and took care of the heaviest work, the snow plateau at the front.  Christ at the snow blower, with the shovels, works away so this old man won’t have to rise slowly and limp about for the next few days.

Sister Teresa, whose old car is creaky, too, has just come back into the house.  She was going to go to Holy Mass, but her wipers were broken last night when in the middle of the storm as she was on her way to Adoration.  Now they lie useless and twisted across her windshield.  Should she attempt a repair or go to Holy Mass she wants to know.  I call Dick Raymond down at the service station.  “Send her in, and I’ll look at them,” he says.  He might even fix them and charge her nothing; Christ the mechanic.

“Go to Holy Mass, Sister,” I tell her, “and stop in to see Dick Raymond later.  Call us if you need any help.”  Holy Mass is what she would prefer, I know.

It is a kind of St Patrick morning around here.  Christ is everywhere in the abundance of whiteness.  That reminds me of the hymn we sing at the Morning Office, “Wake Awake the Night Is Dying”.  Four years ago today Mariellen’s mother died as the snow was starting to fall.  We sang that hymn, then, too.  It’s funny to think of her, now, in the blinding whiteness of Christ, the “brightness of eternity” as the hymn has it, while all this morning, in the not-so-blinding whiteness (but beauty nonetheless) of new fallen snow, Christ has been coming and going, “in the light of the Sun…the heart of every man who thinks of me.”

In you, too.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 19, 2019

A Cara

A Cara

When I was much, much younger than I am, I read all of the Tarzan books, and John Carter on Mars.  As a matter of fact, the memory of those novels, John Carter and his adventures in far away places with strange sounding names (still a favorite song of mine), were what piqued my interest much later when my current wife wanted me to read the C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy with her.  Memories of the doings on Barsoom,like photos on the wall while planning a trip, or expecting a guest, kept flashing as we read, adding it’s flavor to the dish then in front of me.

It’s amazing the way one thing leads to another after this long.

I was prompted to write this to you after reading a little piece in the current issue of First Things, a journal of much more than whatever its subtitle might be.  The “little piece”, only about three pages and a line or two, is a memory by some fellow of a trip to a bookstore in Blighty, and what he found there…inside the books he was “forced” to buy; a number of volumes of the notebooks of Julien Green, who lived, not long ago, in France.  The article is an interesting story about who must have been an interesting man living a quiet but interesting life; not quite a hermit, not quite a recluse, perhaps a saint, certainly a good listener and maybe attractive enough to gather up a bunch of interesting companions along his quiet way.

But, that’s not what attracted me so much in this short story about a devout and gentle fellow.  No, I was drawn to the few introductory sentences about the visit itself to the bookstore, and the tale, a short one, about the “Adventure of the Green Notebooks”, very nearly a tragedy.

The writer was delighted to find them, the green notebooks, and disappointed there were so many that he could not afford to give them all a ride home with him.  I won’t say my heart ached, but I can say I know the feeling.

I own a Kindle; two in fact, and have put myself in possession of about 200 novels and of all sorts of books, old and relatively new.  The bits and bites they comprise float around “somewhere over my head”, but not on shelves lining the walls, or climbing the stairs where I would have them if I was allowed.  They, the kindles, are nice, and I am writing this on one of them.  But, it replaces one that died all of a sudden just before Christmas, and would look like merde on a shelf or on the wall.  Is true mor!

For my latest birthday a couple of weeks ago my darling wife “surprised” me, sometime in mid-January, with a weekend trip to York, Me., at something I think was called the York Harbor Hotel.  It was so nice of her.  She loves planning surprises like that for both of us.  Anyway, one of the first things I thought of doing .. after NOT going into the ocean .. was to find one, two or a dozen used book stores to wander about in.  We found one, about twenty minutes up Rt. One in Wells, Me. and drove up there on Saturday.

It was almost as cold inside as it was in the parking lot.  And we were the only people inside the place.  But, the books!  I know a person whose book collection is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 volumes.  If I live to be a hundred (another line from a favorite song of mine) I can never hope to compare my latest few volumes scattered here and there in our tiny place with his.  But, I can admire it.  Solomon’s riches were nothing compared… as far as I am concerned.  And, I wonder about Alexandria…

Not too long ago we were lucky enough to spend a tiny amount of time in Florence, and to visit, however briefly, the digs of Lorenzo Medici there.  He was, in addition to everything else, a bookish fellow, and boasted a 20,000 volume library I learned.  It seems a number worth shooting for.  I saw the reading room in his place.  The original, and beautiful, Penn Station, which was modeled I have been told on Caracalla’s baths, was about the same size.  I exaggerate, but at my first glance of Larry’s big room, it reminded me of Penn Station.  The only problem was that it had no soft and cozy chairs, and the reading tables were more like banquet tables.  Well, neither did Penn Station.

Anyway, back to used books.  Mariellen and I wandered around inside for about an hour.  It even had Tarzan, in all of his appearances in print.  I had collected five novels in my wandering, and was going for one of two more when I was reminded ever so gently about where we lived.  I finally put all but one back, a good as new copy of a book I had started about a half century ago but never finished: “The White Lotus”, by John Hersey, a different kind of story “The Man in The High Castle”, but the same theme, both of which have me thinking about Ireland and hell with King Billy and God bless the Pope…

Someday, I will go back there, and just for the fun of it pick up “Tarzan of The Apes“.  I may just sit and hold it for a while.  In any event, it must take its place in line, behind so many others including “The City of God” neglected oh, so long ago in favor of Cliff Notes and The Pinewood Inn.  I wouldn’t have understood then, anyway.

I must not waste too much time, though, there was a “For Sale” sign outside.

PS:  One of the books I almost tearfully had to put back was “Twenty Years A-Growing”, by Maurice O’Sullivan, one of the sweetest books I have ever read.  It alone is worth the trip.

By the way, about two miles south of the bookstore, still on Rte. 1, there is a shopping plaza.  And in that place, on the side a small hill on the right as you enter…away from the mass of stores and supermarkets… is a small red building, a house once upon a time.  It is now the location of a charming little place to stop and enjoy what I thought was a delightful time.  Can’t remember the name, but that shouldn’t surprise you.  I can’t remember yours…or my own.


Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 3, 2019

Somewhere Along The Way

We took a short trip along the coast into Maine over the weekend. It was to celebrate my arrival here 77 years ago yesterday. I sat and read something or other, an article in a magazine, while Mariellen, my wife, made sure everything was safe for us to leave; the plants were watered, the faucets all closed…things like that. And, of course, reading, and the approach of en event like becoming rather old, got me thinking. One of the things I read was an article about Hemingway, and what moved him along while he was writing. Pilgrimage. After reading, I watched the ice on the river outside. And, I doodled. What follows are my silly doodles:

I walk along counting my fingers, another Santiago, another Compostela.

Others count, too, whatever will do, railroad ties, traffic lights

Old barns in broken fields,, children underfoot, lost chances,

Real dreams and old romances.

All I have left are fingers and memories over and over, Amen, amen!

While roadside flowers lift and fall into the weeds and pretty little angel eyes wink at me in the moon bright sky. Always under them I pass by.

Who leaves, who comes, who goes, I don’t but some One knows, who clears

And builds the road ahead which will be finished, finished and done, done when all are not dead.

The fish in the river down the hill beneath the running ice will tell me when they know and when it is at last done,

When hill and me and stars are done, when all at last are one.

The little wild boy on the shore of the sea, the wild sea,

The same one later on the ice kissed bank who calls to me

The ice no thicker than a finger where I would walk, walk

To the other side. But I never tried for father took and held my hand.

But I would have, yes! I would have gone, left the shore’s safe land

And walked across the river, to the river’s other side.

Not a thing will stay as it was, but will become as it was.

I like to watch the little, quicker, ice run down the river just outside to catch the slowing to a stop edge of the larger plodding floe. Joined, they go to the waiting sea below. One thing now when just two before. Not so long to stay for sure. But now, now they are! The “marriage” of ice is no such thing as that but it is a joining sure. For some, a while, a day, unless in what we might call a “frozen waste” such thing..they stay. Like a white duck on the edge looking for its original self in black water, Just there, doin’ what it oughter.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | January 18, 2019

No Swimming Today!

The lifeguards are on strike.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | January 10, 2019

Brave the New World

In Chapter 6 of the book, 1984, there is a little bit of cultural orientation, I call it, going on. We ought to know what that world is like, and so we get, sort of, a tour in the form of sitting in on two fellows have lunch at work. Orwell is painting the the society that his “hero” lives in. And at the point I want to mention, he is using again the only two colors that the book; gray and black

He has been talking about the social life, and gotten around to relations between men and women; to sex. He’d spent a good bit of time on what passes for friendship, for want of a better word, in the place. This little bit, after a longer discussion about the sexes and society is kind of gut wrenching.

Winston and his wife are separated, because The Party “did not permit divorce”, and he can’t seem to remember much at all about her. It suffices us to know what little her remembers; that she was tall and very straight with splendid movements. She also had an aquiline nose. The rest..

We learn that early in the marriage he discovered she was more of a cut-out than a person: “(S)he had without exception the most stupid, empty vulgar mind that he had ever encountered. She had not a thought in her head that was not a slogan, and there was no imbecility, absolutely none, that was not capable of swallowing if the party handed it out to her. “The human sound track” he nicknamed her in his own mind. Yet he could have endured living with her if it had not been for just one thing – sex.”

Katherine had been taken over by the party, I figure. I have been sitting thinking about that and the next few pages in the book where Orwell describes Winston’s further thoughts about the man and woman thing.
To be honest, the whole thing frightens me. In a book I recently finished, Europe Central, by William Vollman, there is a lot of talk about that old dance, “Changing Partners”, especially in Soviet Russia, where the Party preferred its women and men to be liberated, and the state, as in Nazi Germany, to bring up the children as good little Bundists.

Frankly, it scares me. There are too many frightening parallels between Orwell’s and Vollman’s writing with what fills the papers and the broadcast news, and have been filling it almost to the exclusion of anything else. I become more and more convinced of two things, we are at war, and we are losing.

I went off to bed last night with these words from 1984, the last ones I read before closing the book:

“He saw himself standing there in the dim lamplight, with the smell of bugs and cheap scent in his nostrils, and in his heart a feeling of deep resentment which even at that moment was mixed up with the thought of Katherine’s white body, frozen forever by the hypnotic power of the Party. Why did it always have to be like this?”

I went with these words and the thoughts of those words carried forward to today; Pussy Hats, billboards shouting out slogans about death; riots and burnings, mean and ugly people demanding more death; rich, corrupt, foolish and empty hearted and headed men and women in positions of authority and influence supporting the surgical mutilation of young children and adults, the perversions and diseases of mind and body, and soul, things once thought deep sins and deadly madness, now celebrated as wonderful advances; and being proud of their deformities of character, mind and soul; all day and everyday shouting out in our own “Newspeak” the glory of this brave new world covered in dust.

And, I thought, not for the first time, that I am lucky to be the age I am, and near what we used to call the “Dirt Nap”. There is no gray. All is black.

Must it always be like this?

Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 3, 2018


A year or so would pass not so long ago before either of us would have to go to the doctor’s office for a “checkup”.  Now we uncover aches, pains, spots and bumps, symptoms of all kinds that merit the pursed lips and worried looks of professionals at least once a month.  We have a new car which already knows the way much more than any horse and sleigh might have as it takes Grandma and Grandpa to clinic, hospital, office and or pharmacy.


It is nearly 7:00am.  Beyond the wall of trees, a few dozen yards away down the river the sun, at least a mile from where it rose at Summer’s height, shines its first pale light, begins to creep up the sky and reveal the pale blue, the cold blue of a winter sky. Too early!  Too darn early.  There’ll be no angry red swelling of clouds today, and spits of cold rain throughout as yesterday’s sullen weather provided.

And all is quiet.  The river, like a silken sheet beneath the morning’s stillness, is slipping by at a height born from weeks of rain, it seems, which brought on us a fullness usually formed by winter’s snow melt from the mountains.  It will be cold today; cold and still.  And, I have a doctor’s appointment at 3:00pm.

The neighbor’s dog barks at the day; one, two and then a volley of three before it has satisfied itself that the world has been arranged as it would have it so.  Birds?  They are somewhere in a tree nearby stoking the fire.

My coffee grows cold on the desk, and I have been here less than ten minutes.

Did I mention I had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon at three?  His office is a busy place.  Everyone there seems my age, and limps awfully as they struggle from check in to a chair and begin waiting to be called, then disappear behind a door.  The television screens don’t mind.  They flash pictures and blab words uninterrupted by anything that happens below them, chronicling nonsense and news from morning until evening; scores and temperatures, disasters and death across the world, and very well dressed young men and women to explain it all to the the room not listening.  Well, the weather does get the odd glance.

Yesterday, or the day before, I can’t remember, I began to read a new book by Anthony Esolen.  His newest is titled “Nostalgia”.  Here is a paragraph about the word from something called The Online Etymology Dictionary:

nostalgia (n.)

1770, “severe homesickness considered as a disease,” Modern Latin, coined 1688 in a dissertation on the topic at the University of Basel by scholar Johannes Hofer (1669-1752) as a rendering of German heimweh “homesickness” (for which see home + woe). From Greek algos “pain, grief, distress” (see -algia) + nostos “homecoming,” from neomai “to reach some place, escape, return, get home,” from PIE *nes- “to return safely home” (cognate with Old Norse nest “food for a journey,” Sanskrit nasate “approaches, joins,” German genesen “to recover,” Gothic ganisan “to heal,” Old English genesen “to recover”). French nostalgie is in French army medical manuals by 1754.

The author’s treatment of the word in his first chapter is both wider and deeper, and a bit more charitable to the thing, I think; but, I happen to think nothing here, if he ever reads this (which is not very likely unless I put it in his hands) would be strange.  He would recognize and understand every bit of the thing.

It’s not a sickness, nostalgia, I think.  If you ask me, and you needn’t, nostalgia’s more like an ache.  My first wife, Sheila, may she rest in peace, had a lot of bone breaks as a child.  She was a delicate person, but in body only.  In spirit she was the toughest, truest person I met until I met the woman she picked for me, lady who now sleeps quietly downstairs.  Anyway, back to Sheila and her broken bones.

She described the “knowledge”, the deep feeling within when a bone was broken, that something was out of place, something important and necessary.  It was almost a kind of mourning for what had once been good, whole and the way it was meant to be.  The feeling was always the same she said.  Something which had been whole and good, no longer was that way.  The pain itself told her, of course, that there was a very bad thing which had occurred on a physical level.  But, this was the “feeling” of change, and as she described it I could only think of loss.  It was something deeper  almost spiritual; and it was no different when she broke her back than when she broke her collar bone, or an arm or, even a finger.  She was not whole, she was broken.  And, unless something solid and white was sticking out of her skin no one else would know; and until she told me, she hadn’t ever mentioned this deeper, existential hurt to anyone. 

Perhaps she was experiencing “Nostalgia” for what had been whole and was now broken.  I can tell you that my latest trip to the doctor’s office this afternoon involves an experience like that nostalgia.  I have had rotator cuff surgery on my left shoulder, which was never broken, just worn out after the abuse I’ve given it,  I am nostalgic for the life I was able to lead when it wasn’t a torn thing.  But that’s a surface reaction.

Sheila described something like a change in the soul, a change form what had made her who she was, and now was not.

Toward the end of his long introduction, Dr. Esolen writes about a French philosopher, Gabriel Marcel, who is talking about loss; in this instance a loss of culture, a neglect of the past and the tremendous sensation, that, it seems, almost no one feels, because, well to borrow from Sheila, the bones, the connections, have been broken; and they can’t go on without either the path, or the tools to negotiate it.  The book he refers to is something called “Homo Viator”.  I suppose one could render the title as  “Man the Traveler”.  We have a place to go, every one of us, and we have been shown the way by the ones gone before.  Or had been, until recently.

Dr. Esolen concludes his mention of Marcel with a short quote from the book: “Perhaps a stable order can only be established on earth if man always remains acutely conscious that his condition is that of a traveler.”  In other words, we were started on a journey and we have a destination.  We are, more or less, all going home. 

How do we get there?

That was the question that gave me pause, the question that the last sentence of the introduction to the book seemed to be prompting me to ask.  The answer I thought, had to have something to do with whatever “equipment” I had to make the journey. I sat looking out of the window at what little of the world I could see around me and thought for a while about the journey so far, and how much time I might have before it is finished…at home or short of the mark by a foot or a mile.

It was Samuel Johnson who said: “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

I began to realize that I have had help all along the way, and companions, too, but, sometimes like Ado Annie, a guy just can’t say no. You know?  No matter what he believes is down the road waiting for him.  I began to think, like that old song, that I had a heart made of stone:

I never finished the book, “Heaven’s My Destination”, by Thornton Wilder but maybe I should have all those years ago.  My dim memory of it is that he nearly ran out the string, and was sort of put back on his feet by an encounter with a priest.  He’d been on fire for the Lord and a real pain for most of the people he came in contact with.  I’ve met them, like two fellows I shared a cab with in Dallas one morning Long ago, one of whom asked me if I have been saved.  “From what?” I asked back.  They ignored me for the rest of the ride and talked among themselves about hoe the Good Lord had showered them with blessings…in the form of new cars, big houses and stuff.

It’s one of my most vivid memories of three years in Texas.  And, I often wondered whose heart was made of stone.  Because, I could see, clear as the sun coming up it the morning, saving wasn’t about a big house on the prairie, and a son who was the star quarterback on Friday Night.

Figuring there’s about fifteen years left, I have made up my mind to accept the help offered, and follow the only road that leads me home.  There’s a couple of hills to walk over, or around.


This was started a week or so ago. We just got back from another trip to the hospital about an hour ago.  My hands are shaking, and I don’t know whether it’s from too much caffeine or just being there for, what is it between us, the fifth or sixth time in three months.  It’s getting closer.






Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 13, 2018


It seems the rain will never stop.

Apropos of nothing more than a cold damp morning, good for not much beyond drinking tea, reading a good book and wondering about the world beyond the window, I picked up Robert Bork’s “Slouching Toward Gomorrah”.  It has all the makings of a wonderfully dark, thrilling and depressing (aren’t they all?) Dystopian novel: action, characters galore, plot.  Anything by Orwell or Dick would have done but they weren’t around.

About halfway through the second chapter dealing with the 60s I come across about a paragraph of prose from another book written by two survivors, two converted radicals, named Horowitz and Collier.  In this short excerpt the reformed (I will not use the word which presents itself, they are sincere.) fellows describe a kind of collapse of that movement toward the end of the decade.

What to make of that puzzles me, but, never mind.  Using their information, Bork writes about a kind of “diaspora” that the, pardon me, rats undertake.  He spends a few pages reporting on where they nested, and what they did; mainly in the media, the universities and publishing.  They became, he writes, the “chattering” class.  Oh, he also mentions politics, I think, and entertainment; that last in connection with the media.

I can’t see much in the way of difference among any of those categories.  Perhaps there is some distinction between universities and the rest.

Now I must look for the Horowitz and Collier book, which should be a “fun” read.  I understand it was published in the 80’s and has been updated.  There will, of course, be nothing about the recent disgrace in the Senate; the happenings there reminding me, almost moment by moment, of episodes from long ago.

I have a feeling that a necessary element of dystopian novels is some sort of hope at the end. “The sun will come up tomorrow…”, don’t you know.  They even fly off to another planet at the end of “A Canticle for Liebowitz”.

Well, that may be something for the book.  Certainly, it doesn’t seem that way in real life; today, anyway.

I keep thinking, though, of men in caves in Italy, or wandering around in Hippo, or Assisi, or, please God, somewhere nearby.

Before I die.

Because, I miss a lot of things that were good.

And I think of my poor, dear father on such mornings as this, defeated by forces he never knew were attacking him; the ones inside his head. And the others behind desks making promises they knew were lies. He’s the man I pray for on such days, though he’s been dead an age or so.  And I think of my older brother, only gone three years.  An exile from his family even when he was with them.  He didn’t want the old way, and tried to make his own way.
The one afraid to fight what he couldn’t see or understand, and the other no fighter at all, but a wanderer, and long gone in search of what he left behind.
And me, still here, still trying to bring it all back home; waiting for the door to open and the outside to be inside, the inside outside, and God smiling at the end.  And hoping I can stand the light.
Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 26, 2018


I saw the group at water’s edge gathered
In a semi-circle where we launch boats,
Cast lines, throw stones, just sit watching
The river moving on down to the sea.
Some times they shifted slightly, waiting…
For what, I thought… As if I signal sent
They turned and walked up the bank. One came
Toward me, sadness in her step, on her face,
And spoke her name, Sherry; from down the road,
There to remember with his family
Her young nephew, now no longer living.
He was just thirty-six, and too soon dead
Her eyes, tone of voice and shaking hands all said
Before she spoke the name of her nephew: Greg.

I told her I would remember and pray
For him. “He came from here, but he had gone
To Connecticut and died there last week.
He wanted some of his ashes scattered on
The river. That’s what we were doing there.”
“Oh,” I said, “I thought it was a christening.”
I would still pray I told her. Then thanking
Me she turned and walked back to the others.

I stood, there on the river bank, later
Looking downstream; the deep, dark, slow stream,
Stone paved shallows at my feet, floating leaves.
What had been Greg had gone away downstream.
No trace remained, no little speck of him
On the river’s long way to the deep wide sea.
I turned away and turning saw the old man
In his old boat pulling against the current
To the spot where Greg’s people had just been.
Each day to this spot, mid-river he comes
Drops anchor, baits line, settles down, and waits.

Often I see him, sitting there mid-stream
Rocking if a breeze ruffles him a bit
Or a passing cloud casts a shadow down
On the water’s face. Always there, it seems
Always there so we may all meet the sea.

peg 08/22/2018

Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 25, 2018

In Which I Write A Poem About Good Old Dad

My Father’s Song, for My Brother:
A Brief Chronicle of the Time of
Edmund John Gallaher 4/6/1913 to 4/26/1969

I will sing a song of my father, sing as I remember him
Nearly half a century’s gone, though his light has not grown dim.
He wanders still my memories, pacing, as I go,
Beside me, faithfully and gently; holding hand and heart just so.

The years amuse me in their passing by
Tolled like bells in some steepled church nearby
With times recalled ringing soft, ringing deep
Across the fields of days, the hills of years
Between the last loud laughter, the bitter tears;
Great wonder of his stature. I do weep
At good and ill most equally to see
My father covered in our sweet love who
From deep love fled until he turned, to me!
And swore his love that was ever and would be.

I think he was old before he could stand
On soft boned toddler’s legs, stretching a hand
For help to his own about the world.
His soft brown eyes, his bright red curls
Begging attention paid to him as due
All children. And they not there, the two
Strangers, children themselves; he a burden
More than love’s bright sign, promise made. But then
The world and need, which only God knows now,
To work and woe, far and long, would they go.
He would then be mere one more on the floor
Among the bundles dropped just inside the door
To be picked up when and if “Poor Eddie”
Should be brought next wherever was “could be.”

Grown indeed, more weed than flower in the sun
He was, uprooted, shoved; and always one
Among many, the little after thought!
“Poor Eddie” was the family’s name, and ought
It not have been so? He had shelter, sure,
But never had he home or place secure.

There’s a photo of him on a bridge
Easily leaning, in summer whites, with
An innocent, confident gaze, hoping
Under a clear sky; his manner open
It seems whenever I look at it. Those eyes,
I think each time that it might be me,
There looking into the future to see
The ones he’d love, whom he could call his own
At another time in the world full grown.

I know the place, though now it would be strange
So much time since then, so much that has changed.
That he was there is fact, and that he smiled
At least one time. “Poor Eddie”, lonely child
So young for these unnatural shocks. There
He seems composed although; complete and fair.

Soon he would be married and father of
Three. All in a decade come to love
The beauty of bride, mother, family
A real life to live, and place to thrive free.
Now his own in his own he must have thought
Among the bounty love and hard work brought.

So, they were! The very truth. Joy, happiness
And steady bliss with spouse and “spawn” in paradise.
The four little rooms in the big city
That never slept, simply furnished, pretty.
With a chair from here, a pillow from there;
The place in the basement, at the back where
Kids could play in the yard and lot nearby,
Where they had moved, escaping rats red eyes
And roaches’ filth. Worse than Harlem, even,
Our mother told him the day we were leaving.

He worked his job, nor was ever stayed from
Swift completion of his appointed rounds
The first fifteen brief, bright, years. Paradise, bliss,
As we, all of us, smiled, danced, sang, kissed
The days and seasons going by in turn.
Our opened door, our hearts, to all who came.

Oh, he had found, he made, family, home
Which he had always hoped to name his own
So Why? we wondered who lived with, in, him
The change so slight, then strong. Dark! Dawn, came dim
Which had always been bright. And night, black threat,
Grim, violent, bleak, endless and wild. Full blown
Rages in the dying light, great fear, deep harm!
Home, once sweet home, became a prison camp.

Then he disappeared : a deluge of booze
A mighty river of despair, his bruised
Soul swept away. While we mutely
Witnessed the catastrophe, “Poor Eddie” left us
Moved deep inside his own whisky soaked home
Where he at least would be safe, numb, Alone.

I saw him last alive on earth, breathing, barely
In the keep of loving nuns whose one care
Was to see him safely home to God
Along the way he’d so long tried to trod.
Immovable now, but with love made new
And in their prayers bound for heaven soon.

Two days before he left (what he’d left long
Before) we spoke last words; our own last song
Telling of the love each to each still bore.
And, doing that, left. Done then! There was no more.

peg August 15, 2018

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